Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pre-65 Medicare Health Insurance

It's currently Open Enrollment season for both ObamaPlans and Medicare Supplements. The former has been a bit frustrating (the only non-Medicaid carrier available in this market has a *very* narrow network) and I've been referring the latter out for many years.

But it got me to thinking that perhaps it's time to reprise another of my former gig's posts:

For millions of younger Americans with health problems, Medicare may be available to cover medical expenses. This would include those with long-term disabilities or who have been diagnosed with specific diseases or health conditions, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or end-stage renal disease. As with those who qualify due to their age, though, Medicare itself doesn't cover everything, and some form of supplemental coverage may be desirable.

What's the problem?

During surgery, a client's adult daughter was deprived of oxygen for many minutes, resulting in brain damage that left he unable to support herself. She was eligible for Social Security Disability, and thus for pre-65 Medicare health coverage. The challenge is that there are deductibles and co-payments that add to her out-of-pocket costs. A Medicare Supplement policy might be able to pay for most of them. Unfortunately, many people don't know that these plans exist.

What's available?

In some states, one can purchase a standardized Medicare Supplement policy from a licensed carrier. These plans, which are usually available only to those 65 and older, are made available to those who qualify for pre-65 Medicare. They can be expensive, but in many cases the coverage they provide far exceeds the monthly premium.

Medicare Advantage Plans may also be an option, depending on one's residence.

How does Medicare Advantage work for pre-65 beneficiaries?

There are several benefits to an Advantage Plan. First, it caps one's maximum out-of-pocket in case there are a lot of claims (or one very big one). Second, many plans are available at little or no cost to the consumer. This can save thousands of dollars a year in premiums over a standardized Medicare Supplement policy.

The downside to Advantage plans is that one is limited to certain providers for health care, and not all of one's medications may be covered.

What about Open Enrollment?

One challenge with switching to a Medicare Advantage plan is that this can generally only be done during Open Enrollment. Fortunately, my client's daughter was also participating in Social Security's "Extra Help" program. Extra Help enables qualifying Medicare beneficiaries to purchase their meds at greatly reduced prices, with the government picking up the cost. According to the Social Security Administration (which oversees the program), Extra Help "[is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year]( ttp://" 

What about an Exchange Plan?

One of the alternatives we explored was whether or not an ACA-compliant Exchange plan would be appropriate. This was quickly discarded because, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, "it’s against the law for someone who knows that you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan".

And people who do choose to reject Medicare and end up buying a plan from the Exchange are ineligible to receive any subsidy.

And so?

Americans who are on Medicare due to serious health conditions have limited health insurance choices. For many, a Medicare Advantage plan may be the most efficient means to supplement their Medicare coverage.
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